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Potential buyers at Pilgrims Retreat caravan park in Harrietsham told to seek own legal advice

Potential buyers at a caravan park are being told to seek their own legal advice before moving in, until a decision is made on the site's future.

Pilgrims Retreat holiday caravan park in Harrietsham, first established in 1967, has seen several expansions and has a chequered planning history.

Pilgrims Retreat in Harrietsham has a chequered planning history
Pilgrims Retreat in Harrietsham has a chequered planning history

It has planning permission for 180 holiday homes and 18 permanent residential pitches, but there are more than this on the site.

And Maidstone Borough Council has a High Court injunction in place to prevent more caravans or mobile homes being brought to the park and to stop any of the buildings being used as a 'show home'.

Sines Parks Luxury Living, which owns the site, submitted a 'part-retrospective' planning application seeking a change of use from a mix of holiday and residential units to fully residential, but at the same time, expanding from 198 lodges to 248. The application was refused by the council last October.

Last week, Maidstone's planning committee was asked to impose a number of enforcement orders which included removing extra caravans in two years.

The issue surrounding the site divided councillors, with some arguing the council must enforce its policies and others concerned it would be the residents who would suffer, many of whom are elderly and infirm.

Maidstone council's planning committee met to discuss the site's future last Thursday
Maidstone council's planning committee met to discuss the site's future last Thursday

So it was instead decided that the owners be given more time to negotiate with council officers to submit a new planning application that would satisfy both sides. But if that wasn't achieved, officers be authorised to move to enforcement action immediately.

Councillors set the time limit at nine months and they also established a steering committee of members to bring the two sides together.

The motion was then passed unanimously.

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